“What a headache. If I had known it would be like this, I would have given the throne to Enak. Damn it!” Every morning, Phante would look at the pile of documents on his desk with frustration. He had already taken care of a mountain of documents the day before, the day before that, and so on, but it did not seem like the mountain of documents would grow smaller any time soon.
Phante thought being king meant wielding unbelievable power and authority. However, the reality was completely different. Whenever he thought of his father, Phante could only remember his father doing whatever he pleased. If the Martial King wanted to play, he would play. If he wanted to fight, he would fight. The Martial King had enjoyed the ultimate lifestyle without any restrictions.
‘Father also had so many wives. A harem! Isn’t having a harem the ultimate fantasy of all men!’ It was for these reasons that Phante had coveted the throne. Furthermore, Phante could escape from the constant nagging of his mother, the Psychic Medium, and his sister, Edora. However, once Phante sat on the throne, his lifestyle was opposite of what he expected. He was forced to follow a strict daily schedule as if everything had to be measured with a ruler.
Phante couldn’t wake up late and had to be up at five in the morning. After a simple breakfast of porridge, he had to attend meetings with the elders and important figures starting from six o’clock. He had to listen to their reports then discuss the progress of the younger generation with the older tribesmen. From noon, he had to review major issues regarding the tribe, and after three in the afternoon, Phante had to carefully look over the various documents and reports flowing in from various floors of the Tower. Once he was done, which was usually around eight in the evening, Phante would eat dinner. At eleven, he would either go to bed or take some time to practice his martial arts.
Phante’s daily routine was monitored regularly, and because he was told he had to have a healthy diet, he only ever saw a parade of green vegetables at most meals. Occasionally, Phante would be given chicken breast or beef rump for protein. This schedule drove Phante crazy since he never liked to be tied down to one place for very long. Phante tried protesting a few times, but to no avail.
“I’ll tell on you.”
“To the Head Elder.”
Whenever Phante tried to protest, the people he spoke to would threaten to tell the Head Elder about his irresponsibility. All Phante could do was mumble insults under his breath and carry on. Since he’d been dragged around by the previous king, the Head Elder was committed to controlling the current king.
Phante had no choice but to live like a trapped mouse. He did not even dare to think of rebelling against the Head Elder. Phante had yet to fully develop and master Blood Lightning—what could he do to the Head Elder?
‘Wait, doesn’t a king usually give orders and make decisions? Shouldn’t my subordinates take care of all the trivial matters?’ However, after realizing that his father’s freedom had only been a façade and that the Martial King had been weighed down by his duties and as a response to the Psychic Medium’s constant nagging, Phante gave up resisting. His only outlet was to tussle with the occasional challengers who sought the throne. However, since everyone grew to acknowledge Phante’s skills and authority, there were less and less challengers.
Ah! Phante sighed out loud as he grabbed the document on top of the pile and read it. He often whined about quitting, but he never actually did it because he didn’t want to disturb the stability of the tribe, which they’d only just restored. However, although Phante’s eyes were unfocused and weary, he noticed something flash in the corner of his eyes.
Whoosh! Phante quickly ducked and let go of the paper, swinging his fists at the assailant approaching from behind. Crackle! Bam! After training for the past two years, Phante’s Blood Lightning had evolved to the eighth level. The Blood Lightning spun violently and thundered loudly as though it would sweep his enemy in one blow.
Slice! However, the Blood Lightning’s violent force suddenly disappeared, and a sharp wind blew past Phante’s neck. Sss.
Phante’s movements suddenly stopped when blood flowed from a superficial cut on his neck and he saw a familiar face smiling at him when he turned around.
“Pretty good. You’re moving a lot faster. Can you apply your Blood Lightning speed to your martial art movements as well?”
“Hyung!” Phante burst into laughter, its sound louder than his Blood Lightning. “Are you out now?”
“I was wondering whether to break through the training center and go inside to have a look! Hahaha! It’s good to see that you’re out! However…” Phante’s happy mood sobered up and he looked Yeon-woo over. “Has anything changed? The only thing I can sense is a slightly gloomier aura, no?”
Phante thought that someone coming out of closed-door training would look drastically different. After all, wasn’t that usually the case? Besides, the fact that Yeon-woo was out meant that he’d finally achieved the Yin Sword. Phante cocked his head, his face full of curiosity.
“I can still beat you up, so don’t get any ideas,” Yeon-woo said with a smile. Unless he went through exuviation and transcendence, there was no way for Yeon-woo to develop further. He had spent time in closed-door training in order to change his physical foundation, and his status window could no longer display his elevated stats. It only showed one character in the attributes section: yin.
“Hmph! I wouldn’t be so sure.” Phante seemed displeased by Yeon-woo’s words and shouted confidently. Yeon-woo wasn’t the only one who had changed in the past two years.
“Yeah. You never know, right? You might be the one calling me ‘hyung’ now!”
Bam! Yeon-woo moved quickly and swung Vigrid. Clang! Phante blocked Vigrid with the edge of his hand. In the past, Phante would not have been able to block such an attack, but now, it was fairly simple for him. “Hahaha! Didn’t I tell you! I’m not as simple as I used to be…!”
Phante’s confident words were cut off when fists suddenly began flying at him from every direction.
After Arthia consolidated its power in the lower world, there was a wide consensus that the Tower would soon collapse. However, that brief period of panic soon subsided. Humans are creatures of adaptation, and those within the Tower adapted to Arthia’s rule. Of course, the Tower contained many people and factions that sought greater power; there had been attempts to overthrow Arthia, but none had succeeded so far.
As time passed, strange rumors started circulating among the rankers.
“The rankings of the sixty-first floor have begun to change after a long time!”
Anyone could look up the rankings, and up to the sixtieth floor, the top name had consistently been “###”, a name that was hidden. Of course, everyone knew that ### was the Shadow King, the head of Arthia. However, many were confused why it hadn’t been made public.
All of a sudden, the name of ###, which hadn’t been seen in a while, began appearing at the top position of the rankings again. The difference between ###’s score and that of the person in second place was so huge that no one could even think of approaching ###’s score. However, what truly surprised people was the speed of the change in rankings from the sixty-first floor to the seventy-sixth floor. They were all changing in less than an hour.
[This is the 76th floor, the gate of the ‘Ten Nights’.]
As the floor’s name suggested, the stage contained ten nights and was covered in darkness. The light of the moon and the countless stars illuminated the stage, but the moon wasn’t like anything Yeon-woo had seen on Earth or on any of the other floors. The moon was so huge that Yeon-woo wondered if the planet was actually a satellite of the moon and not the other way around. The moon loomed so large in the horizon that it seemed like he could only see thirty percent of it, and its craters were all visible. It seemed like if one traveled to the moon, one could reach it in no time.
‘Isn’t it difficult for ordinary things to live here because of the difference in gravity?’ Yeon-woo suddenly thought, but he soon dismissed his question. What was impossible in a world with miracles and magic?
As the starlight reflected in his eyes, Yeon-woo searched for Laputa and found the floating castle leisurely flying among the stars. Next to the moon, Laputa looked as tiny as a firefly, but its influence on the stage was beyond its size. It was the home of Arthia, who occupied the seventy-sixth floor in place of the now-defunct White Dragon.
Yeon-woo folded his Sky Wings and quietly landed on Laputa. Doyle had already heard that Yeon-woo was coming and waited for him in the courtyard.
“It’s been a while, hyung.”
“How are you?”
“You know me. I’m always the same.” Doyle had grown out of his baby face and looked dignified now. His physical features were sharper, and he seemed to have grown taller.
‘I suppose he’s taller than Kahn now.’ Kahn would have been angry if he’d heard Yeon-woo’s thoughts. “Any news about the Sea of Time?”
“I knew you’d start off with that.”
“I need to get rid of them as soon as possible.” Ferocity glinted in Yeon-woo’s eyes.
The Martial King had told Yeon-woo to surpass Allforone. And, of course, Yeon-woo was going to obey the Martial King’s last words. However, that time was not yet right. Yeon-woo had to strike the Sea of Time first. They were responsible for the Martial King’s death and had stolen the Psychic Medium’s eyes. Yeon-woo was dead set on eliminating them first, especially when he considered the fact that someone was gathering up all the Adamantine Nova throughout the universe, that the gods had disappeared, and that the Demonic Sea was colluding with the Sea of Time.
‘Also, Allforone hasn’t made a move despite the frequent occurrences of exuviation and transcendence. It’s clear that the Sea of Time has done something to restrict him.’ There was no way Yeon-woo could forgive the Sea of Time for what they did to the Martial King. ‘Brahm’s whereabouts are still unknown as well. Also, no one can reach Jeong-woo and the Head Elder.’
It was clear that Brahm was still alive because his link to Yeon-woo was still intact. However, something was blocking them from contacting each other, so Yeon-woo could not figure out what was going on. Still, from time to time, Yeon-woo could sense that Brahm hadn’t been detained or injured.
Yeon-woo speculated that Brahm and the others might have gone to a place completely separated from the outside world, like a hidden stage, as they pursued the Sea of Time. Fortunately, Yeon-woo and Arthia had not sat idly by. “I saw the report you sent over the other day.” Yeon-woo had instructed Phante and Kahn to continue pretending to fight over the second-in-command spot in Arthia.
“Phante hasn’t been around the base because he’s been concentrating on the One-horned tribe, so it’s been easy for Kahn to gather people around him. He’s found a lot of weeds.”
Doyle handed Yeon-woo a summary of his report. Yeon-woo scanned the contents quickly and his eyes narrowed. He’d also read reports from Cha Jeong-woo and the Head Elder that Phante had passed to him. Yeon-woo’s mind quickly organized the various pieces of information. “It seems like quite a few people are involved.”
“There are probably some fools among these people who don’t even realize what they’re involved in.”
“Sort everything out soon.”
“Will do. And in the meantime, Kahn has gotten cozy with the other side, and he’s currently on his way to attend a meeting in their area.”
The Sea of Time was everywhere. Kahn was pretending to join them, and it seemed that his undercover efforts were about to bear fruit. Yeon-woo’s eyes lit up. “Where’s the meeting place?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter